By Joy H. Montgomery, Animal Planet
Not everything is as it seems with many wild animals. While most people have heard about lizards that blend into their surroundings and the metamorphosis of butterflies, there are many truly amazing animals with transformative powers that protect them from predators or help them find food — or a mate. From an octopus that pretends to be other animals to a creature with an uncanny ability to disappear in an instant, discover the best animal transformers in the wild, and find out why there’s more to them than meets the eye.
10. SEA SQUIRT
A sea squirt sounds more like something that would come out of an aquatic animal than the name of an actual creature, but this obscure being is, in fact, real. Often found hanging out on boat hulls or docks, the sea squirt has a transparent outer body that gives it the appearance of a sponge or plant. However, its transformative powers begin while it’s still in the larval stage.
As a tadpole, the sea squirt has a functioning brain, spinal cord and tail, but once it takes root on the ocean floor or other area, the tadpole absorbs those organs as it develops into a mature sea squirt. According to researchers, the presence of a spinal cord in the larval stage means this creature is a vertebrate and more closely related to species like fish — or even people — than invertebrates like worms. Sea squirts can grow up to 7 inches (18 centimeters) in diameter and are also able to heal damaged parts by regenerating cells. All things considered, the sea squirt is a magnificent creature that continues to intrigue scientists, who are currently researching the sea squirt’s healing abilities to see if they might unlock the answer to curing diseases such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease in people.